I had a Saturday mid-morning call at a dilapidated apartment complex off Highway 280 in the Excelsior. I was met by a heavyset woman with a pleasant face and demeanor in her mid-60s. She told me she was the building’s owner, and needed a carpet quote for one of four identical units, occupied by her sister, who recently suffered a stroke and was in the hospital.
The woman explained that she lived in unit one, her absent sister and late mother in unit two, one of her 30-year-old twin daughters in unit three and the other twin in unit four. She’d barricaded the front door to unit two with trash cans that I had to move prior to her unlocking the door. As the door opened, a warm, ghastly stench was released that made me reel and step back. The woman seemed undaunted, then got sidetracked by one of her twin daughters emerging from the next unit down.
I couldn’t go in. It was pitch black inside, putrid and junk filled. I asked if I could measure another unit, as the four two-story units stood side by side and were all the same in layout. Surprisingly, my request was denied. The woman said her grandson was asleep in one of the bedrooms in her unit; I guess the twins’ units were off the consideration table.
I asked again what exactly she needed. She said the front landing area, stairs, top landing and front bedroom on the second floor. From outside I could estimate the lower landing area and the stairs, as I could see half of them. An obsolete mechanical chair lift was stuck a quarter way up the dirty stairway. I gritted my teeth, breathed a few breaths of fresh air, and headed in while the woman went into one of the twin’s units.
Disturbingly, there were two dogs in cages at the top of the stairs. I wasn’t to go into the late mother’s back bedroom, only the front stroke victim’s chamber. I was in and out within five minutes, breathing through my shirt, hasty with my measurements. As I hurriedly exited unit two, a sense of relief came over me. I was now free and could breathe again.
I noticed that two doors down there was a gathering; the attractive 30-year-old twins were outside with their mom and two little boys, perhaps seven and five, dressed in identical karate outfits, ready to be taken to their Saturday morning karate class. I brought my samples down, and asked the kids what color they thought would be best. They loved being involved. The older kid picked immediately; the younger one hemmed and hawed, but eventually made a choice. I told them that I’d flip a coin, and pulled out a quarter. It came up tails; the younger kid beamed, that was his choice. I hadn’t even priced the deal out yet, but the sale was assumed. The owner and I went into her dreadfully messy unit to do the paperwork. I had to write it up on my lap, as there was no table or counter space to put down my order book. Sold, $1,350.
Another noteworthy sales call was at a fancy hi-rise Van Ness Avenue condominium. I was buzzed in, took the elevator to the sixth floor, and met by a 41-year-old male attorney who appeared to be hung over. His bloodshot eyes were puffy; he was unshaven. His place was very messy, but upscale; red wine stains adorned his carpet. There were ashtrays with cigar butts strewn about, beer cans on the floor and empty booze bottles on the countertops.
I jokingly asked why I wasn’t invited to the party. The guy responded with a wry smile. He had a spare bedroom, which he said used to belong to his roommate. It now contained an expensive mountain bike, empty running shoe boxes, piles of clothes, a snowboard, an ironing board and a mattress flipped up on its side against the wall. I measured as the bachelor texted one, or two, of his girlfriends, laughing occasionally.
Next to his built-in bar area was a huge bird cage containing a large parrot that fidgeted and squawked as I walked around. The bird’s white droppings were evident below the cage, not well managed by newspapers haphazardly lain down.
After I completed my diagram, I hinted that I needed his attention. He reluctantly set down his phone. I showed him a reasonably priced, multi-colored rope-like Berber that was predominantly maroon in color, reasoning that red wine would blend right in, and it was low maintenance. He seemed to appreciate my understanding of his lifestyle, and pulled out a credit card for the deposit. We scheduled the installation. I diplomatically yet adamantly explained that he had to do quite a bit of clean up to prepare the place, including his pet bird, of which the installers wouldn’t want any part. He promised me that he’d commit to moving “Tiffy” the parrot into the tile floor kitchen, and appeared pleased that he’d have fresh carpet, mentioning that he was off to the Bahamas for a seven-day vacation the following week.